Do you think you have the perfect life?
Even though we are all masterpieces created by God, we’re broken. I don’t think anyone can claim that they have the perfect life or that they’ve lived perfectly. I think the majority of us would find that we have more in common with Aron Ralston than Jesus.
On retreat down in Reu, Guatemala, after I gave my message on being broken, several students came up to me and asked to talk. So we walked around under a grove a palm trees in the sweltering heat and talked. They, like me, had made mistakes in their past. They, like me, had felt stuck because of what they’d done and wished they could erase their mistakes.
Jesus doesn’t erase our mistakes. He won’t make your life perfect. And we shouldn’t want him too.
As my students told me what had gone wrong in their lives, I felt God nudging me to tell them about Aron Ralston. Now, if that name sounds familiar to you it’s because you just read my blog from my 27th birthday about being stuck in Guatemala and how God used that to get me to where he wanted me. Or you saw the movie 127 Hours. But then maybe, you read Aron Ralston’s book, 127 Hours: Between A Rock And A Hard Place.
Aron, an avid outdoorsman, found himself trapped by a freak climbing accident. He’d survived being trapped in an avalanche and stalked by a bear, but when a large boulder dislodged itself and pinned Aron’s arm to the side of Blue John Canyon in Utah, Aron’s life had to change. After nearly six days of being trapped, Aron cut his arm off to free himself.
If anyone has reason to wish he could go back and have a past mistake taken away, it’s Aron. He describes in the book how he had the opportunity to take another route through the canyon, which would have kept him in contact with people, but he chose to remain alone. His choice led to the loss of his arm. That is why I believe more of us relate to Aron than Jesus.
The Bible says that we all have messed up and fallen short of what it takes to make it into heaven. We’ve all gotten our arms stuck between a rock and the canyon wall, with no real hope of living life the way it was before we were trapped. I could tell, as I looked into my student’s eyes, that they felt this desire.
But then I shared with them the rest of Aron’s story.
After he’d cut his arm free and recovered in the hospital he wrote, “For all that has happened and the opportunities still developing in my life, I feel blessed. I was part of a miracle that has touched a great number of people in the world and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, not even to have my hand back. My accident in the rescue from Blue John Canyon were the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life, knowing that, were I to travel back in time, I would still say, ‘see you later’ to Megan and Kristi and take off into the lower slot by myself,” (Ralston, pg 342). Because Aron cut his arm off so that he could live, he inspired other people to fight to live.
Aron understands that God uses our pasts to help others. He gave Aron a greater story, one not just about hiking and extreme sports, but about what it means to live and be connected to God’s greater story.
This is Redemption. Aron is still missing his arm, it hasn’t grown back and he still has the painful memory of the time inside the canyon.
Our mistakes may seem simple when we place them next to Aron’s. But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter to God. I was truly saddened as my students told me what had happened in their lives over the last year. But, if we let God, He will redeem or pasts, He wont make our lives perfect, but He will take what happened and use it to connect us to His greater purpose.
Redemption uses our imperfections.
Now, if you have been following my blog, you know that I have been talking about King David. After committing adultery and then murdering to try to cover up his mistake, he realized he needed to ask God to renew him and purify his heart. Because David opened his heart back up to God and asked Him to redeem his life, David’s story doesn’t end with his mistake. David’s story becomes part of God’s greater story, the story of Jesus.
If you look at Jesus’s family tree, its roots lead back to David and his mistake. God doesn’t sweep away our past, but he does use it, if we let him, to make something beautiful.
Jesus didn’t come to bring us peace or to make our lives perfect. He came and died on the cross to pay for our mistakes. And then he rose from the dead to mess up our lives. The truth of the matter, that Jesus is alive, forces us to live differently. It connects us to his story, and when we are part of his story our lives start to change. We start to have a greater purpose.
As I sat there talking with my students, my hope was that they would start to let Jesus redeem their mistakes. That they would realize the power for the resurrection, its ability to give them a new story. A story with imperfections, with pain, and with hard times, but one that is far more adventurous than anything they could’ve tried to live before.
As we finished retreat and I said goodbye to some of my favorite people in the entire world, I hoped that God would connect them to a their true adventure. Like in Hugo, where at the end of the movie, each character finds their purpose because they have let their past be redeemed and have been connected to something greater than themselves. I know once we all start living in the reality of the resurrection our lives will truly become an adventure.